TORONTO (AP) - Full-body scanners will be introduced in Canada in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt of a U.S. airliner, Canada's transport minister said Tuesday.
Transport Minister John Baird said 44 machines will be purchased. Twelve will be put in place later this month, and the rest will be operational in the spring.
Transport Canada spokesman Patrick Charette said the scanners will be used only on passengers boarding U.S.-bound flights. He said Washington requested that Canada deploy new scanning equipment.
Toronto, which has Canada's busiest airport, and Vancouver, host of the Winter Olympics next month, will get the first scanners.
Passengers will given a choice between a full-body scan and a physical search. Passengers under the age of 18 aren't required to be scanned
Baird also said they will set up an airport watch system to look for suspicious passengers and flag them for enhanced screening.
"We've got to stay ahead of the terrorist elements," Baird said.
Canadian officials last week banned most carry-on luggage for U.S.-bound passengers in an effort to ease lines at security checkpoints. Passengers complained of chaos and long lines at Pearson International Airport in Toronto after the failed Christmas Day attack.
The suspect in the failed Northwest Airlines bombing had changed planes in the Netherlands and gone through security, but not through a full-body scanner.
Baird said the plane would have blown up some where over southern Ontario en route to Detroit's airport had the suspect's attempt been successful.
"Given the recent terrorist incident on Dec. 25, our government is accelerating its actions to protect air travelers," Baird said.
Canada tested a scanner at a small airport in Kelowna, British Columbia, in 2008. The scanners received the blessing of Canada's
privacy czar last October.
Britain, Nigeria and the Netherlands earlier announced plans for body scanners.
Canada has tried to make traffic between the U.S. and Canada run efficiently since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. More than 70 percent of Canada's exports go to the U.S., and Canada has more
flights to the U.S. than any other country.
Jennifer Iorio, a passenger at the U.S. departure lounge of Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, predicted the security measures would probably add an extra half-hour to the already time-consuming airplane boarding process.
"I wish there were other methods that were less invasive, but if it's something they have to do for airport security, I agree with it," Iorio said.
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